President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol are expected to sign an agreement Wednesday that would have U.S. nuclear-armed submarines dock in the Asian country for the first time in more than four decades – as concerns about threats from North Korea are on the rise, U.S. officials said.
The planned deployment, which is called the “Washington Declaration,” is aimed at discouraging North Korea from attacking its southern neighbor, three senior Biden administration officials told reporters, according to media reports. It is being unveiled while Yoon is in the United States, but the plan has been in the works for months.
The agreement also calls for stronger joint military training between the U.S. and South Korea. Part of the declaration also reaffirms South Korea’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, which is an agreement to stop the spread of nuclear technology.
U.S. nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines frequently visited South Korea in the 1970s during the Cold War, but the U.S. withdrew all of its nuclear weapons from the peninsula in 1991.
North Korea has ballistic missiles over the past year and has threatened to use military force against its southern neighbor.
The missiles are moreover intended to carry a nuclear warhead, which North Korea says it has already developed.